George RR Martin is doing what he does best: taking a break from writing A Song of Ice and Fire to write something else, in spite of pressure from HBO to keep the momentum going.
George RR Martin's publisher Tor has released a special treat for the author's fans: a preview excerpt of his latest work, a 35,000-word novella set in Westeros, published as part of a fantasy anthology called Dangerous Women, also edited by Martin.
It's not the characters we know and love, though. Set some 200 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire — brought to television in the massively popular HBO show Game of Thrones — The Princess and the Queen, or the Blacks and the Greens details the events of the Targaryen Civil war, also called the Dance of Dragons.
King Viserys I Targaryen has died, leaving two successors to the throne: daughter Rhaenyra from his first wife, and son Aegon of his widow, Queen Alicent. By rights, the rule should go to the firstborn — but Alicent is determined that her son should take the throne.
The Dance of the Dragons is the flowery name bestowed upon the savage internecine struggle for the Iron Throne of Westeros fought between two rival branches of House Targaryen during the years 129 to 131 AC. To characterise the dark, turbulent, bloody doings of this period as a "dance" strikes us as grotesquely inappropriate. No doubt the phrase originated with some singer. "The Dying of the Dragons" would be altogether more fitting, but tradition and time have burned the more poetic usage into the pages of history, so we must dance along with the rest.
It promises to be an appropriately violent and grim tale, as well as finally seeing the full-grown, powerful dragons of Martin's universe in action. It could also provide some clues as to what might happen as the novels draw to a close; some insight into the mysterious relationship between the Targaryens and dragons.
What might also put speculation to rest is the novels — The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring — themselves, particularly since the TV show is rapidly catching up. Game of Thrones will be entering its fourth season in 2014, covering the rest of the events of A Storm of Swords. Of course, there is still material to be used from the two books that follow, which should take the show through until 2016. However, Martin has become increasingly slow at writing his books. Fans became irate when A Dance with Dragons took six years to write.
For the record, we do agree with Neil Gaiman, who famously wrote, in response to this ire, "George RR Martin is not your b****" and "George RR Martin is not working for you". However, HBO — for whom Martin is working — is also concerned.
"I know there are issues with the books and catching up," programming president Michael Lombardo said at a recent press conference, with HBO CEO Richard Plepler adding, "Our line to George was 'keep writing'."
"Yes. Get busy writing," Lombardo confirmed.
Well, it looks like he's certainly doing that.
Dangerous Women is currently available for pre-order.
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